James Michael Grimes fell overboard from a cruise ship and was floating on the water for 20 hours.
A US Coast Guard rescue coordinator told Insider that everything worked out for him to survive.
“This is definitely the upper end of the survival limit,” Lt. Seth Gross said of Grimes.
A 28 year old man who fell off a cruise the night before Thanksgiving he miraculously survived because “a bunch of factors” worked “perfectly,” according to a US Coast Guard search-and-rescue mission coordinator.
James Michael Grimes was found by a bulk carrier, a harrowing 20 hours after he fell off the Carnival Valor on the night of November 23rd. Lt. Seth Gross oversees search-and-rescue missions in the Louisiana Gulf Coast metropolitan area, and said his crew arrived just in time to save Grimes’s life.
But “to survive the fall, to be able to stay afloat, that no shark would end up locating him, and then this powerboat was in the right position” all worked to keep him alive until the team rescued him, Gross told Insider. .
Grimes was last seen around 11 p.m., and was reported missing by his family the next day. Grimes said ABC “Good Morning America” he has no recollection of falling, only waking up in the open ocean in the middle of the night.
“I came back and I was in the water with no boat in sight,” he told the show, adding that he had a couple of drinks but wasn’t drunk. Grimes did not respond to Insider’s request for comment.
Grimes described the next 20 hours as the fight of his life. He said he spent much of that time floating in the water, dodging jellyfish and at least one finned creature he couldn’t identify. He spent the night and the next day, until night fell again. He tried eating floating objects, including a piece of bamboo, to maintain energy.
Eventually, a ship spotted Grimes and notified the Coast Guard, who rescued him.
‘The upper end of the survival limit’
Gross said that getting someone to survive in open water like Grimes did was extraordinarily rare, and for many people it would likely be impossible.
“The Coast Guard has invested a lot of time in search and rescue technology and training, so we have a lot of programs that help us determine how long someone can physically stay, not float, how long they can stay on the surface, how long they could survive,” Gross said. “This is definitely the upper end of the survival limit.”
Grimes told ABC he always trusted he would be rescued, and Gross said that attitude likely contributed to his ability to stay afloat for so long. He said Grimes’ “will to survive”, “natural instinct” and her “self-preservation” efforts, such as trying to scream at rescue boats or reaching offshore oil rigs, “were just not common.” .
Cat Bigney, a survival expert who has consulted for Bear Grylls and National Geographic, previously said Well-informed person that simply staying calm in life-or-death situations could ultimately save you: “The biggest thing that will kill you in a survival situation is panicking.”
As for Grimes munching on objects he could find floating around, Gross said he wasn’t sure how much nutrition something floating 20 miles offshore in the middle of the ocean could give you, but said those “small gains” could have added up to him. go ahead.
Gross said Grimes also made smart decisions in the moment, like taking off all his clothes so they wouldn’t weigh him down anymore and he could float more.
When Grimes was finally rescued, he was treated for shock, dehydration and hypothermia, another serious risk factor from spending 20 hours in 70-degree water, but was able to be released in a matter of days. Gross said the hypothermia could have been much more severe, but a number of factors can help slow it down.
“It depends a lot on the person: the time they last ate, the body fat content, what they go in the water with, how comfortable they are in the water,” he said, adding that whatever the particular circumstance from Grimes, surely helped him. avoid the worst.
Coast Guard Saviors
By the time a Coast Guard rescue swimmer reached Grimes, she was nearly at her limit. the Savior, Richard Höflean aviation survival technician, said he thought Grimes only had moments of energy left when he reached it.
If the boat that saw Grimes or the rescue helicopter had taken 10 to 15 minutes, Grimes might not have survived, Gross said, crediting the Coast Guard’s robust search-and-rescue operations and effort to keep relationships with the boating community.
Cruise ship officials notified the Coast Guard of the man overboard situation around 2:30 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day, more than 14 hours since Grimes was last seen. After launching the search and rescue mission, the Coast Guard quickly sent out a transmission to alert other sailors in the Gulf of Mexico that they were actively searching for someone in the water.
crew on board bulk carrier “Crinis” Ultimately he spotted Grimes, who had been waving and yelling to get his attention, and notified the Coast Guard of his location.
“I think that’s part of the reason the motor boat had that lookout and was able to inform us,” Gross said. “So that’s just one of those puzzle pieces that really paid off in the end.”
When the Coast Guard got the call, the rescue helicopter was just six miles from the area where Grimes had been seen, another factor that allowed them to get to him and get him out of the water quickly.
Gross said the location of the helicopter’s clutch was thanks to the Coast Guard’s Optimal Search and Rescue Planning System, which allows them to estimate where a floating object might be. Basically, the program takes 5,000 virtual rubber duckies and drops them at a specific location in the ocean, Gross described. It takes into account things like a person’s weight, clothing, body fat percentage, and whether or not they have a flotation device, and projects where they could potentially float in a specific period of time, taking into account weather and ocean patterns. .
“The biggest concentration of those rubber ducks is where we would look first,” Gross explained.
For Grimes, the system returned more than 7,000 square nautical miles of ocean to where it could potentially be, about the size of Massachusetts. But it was precise enough to put the rescue helicopter close to where they finally found it.
“It’s pretty amazing,” Gross said. “This is what we do on a day-to-day basis. I think one of the main reasons people join the Coast Guard is to serve the American people in times of distress, just like in this case.”
“So to have the result of us rescuing him is a really amazing story of how it all comes together.”
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